Comic Con Day 4: The Final Day

4.5 days of insane geekery is over and done for another year for me, as I lie in my hotel bed thinking about yesterday’s events. Sundays tend to be a bit lighter than other full days at Comic Con, mostly because people are planning to and heading home. But the streets are still packed and the convention center even more so.

My day started very early when I read a tweet from a friend suggesting that the line to get into the center had started before 2am and that they were freezing and needed coffee. So, around 5am I headed down to the line, with orange juice, a blanket and coffee to deliver, and then took my place at the end of the line, which was a good bit longer than for any other day. I should explain the queues, actually. Before the building opens in the morning there are two queues outside; one for Hall H and one for everything else.

Hall H is the 6500 seater room where the big studios do their big presentations, and people traditionally queue a while to get in, but often you can turn up at a far more sensible time and still get in the room. We queued overnight for TRON but could have showed up at 6am and still been fine, but in the back. It all depends what’s in Hall H.

The Harry Potter presentation had the longest queue this year, unsurprisingly – but it still wasn’t as crazy as either Twilight or Lost from last year. So, there was no programming in Hall H this sunday, so forget that line. The other queue is to get to everything else! That’s Ballroom 20 (second biggest room), the exhibit hall (to queue up for exclusives or nab especially nice swag) and then every other programming room. So it’s a huge queue also, but last year I never noticed, because I didn’t once queue outside for the general opening last year. This year was a bit different as a few panels I wanted to catch were hugely popular and first thing, and hell, I was awake so I wandered down. And the line this sunday was the longest one I’d been in for just general opening – why? Well, final day for the exhibit hall, coupled with Ballroom 20 programming of Smallville (final year), Supernatural (final year, perhaps), and after a gap, Glee. So three pretty popular shows.

The main star of Smallville, Tom Welling, only came to Comic Con for the first time last year, and that was only leaked the night before. This year fans have known for months, so there were a TON of them. For me, Supernatural was the focus as all four leads were there, whereas last year the two main chars hadn’t made it. And I knew I couldn’t stay for Glee if I wanted to say a proper farewell to my Con buddy, which I did. So a light day panel-wise of just Smallville and Supernatural.

Smallville was kind of cool, it got a great reception and they always sell the show well, but I simply don’t watch it. There was a lot less asking the cast for autographs this year, and better questions – about what they’d do next, their favourite episode, etc etc. Once it was done though, the party really started with a sneak peek at episode 4 of the new series of Supernatural – and it was /electric/. Directed by Jensen Ackles it’s a Bobby-focussed story that brings Crowley back and looks fantastic. The rest of the cast then emerged to talk post-Apocalyptic Supernatural, and it was good-natured and hilarious, but also fans didn’t ask trite questions too much, which was nice. Jensen talked a bit about directing and killing vampires,  Eric Kripke smacked down M Night ‘Douchey’, and Misha Collins.. well, was just ridiculously funny AND good-looking. Ha ha, I know, already, I’m usually serious, but I have a crush :-) My favourite Supernatural TV critic has put her thoughts and the full audio of the panel here – she sums it up perfectly, and I’m tired!

And with that Comic Con 2010 was done for me. Still the streets were crowded. We had lunch and I waved off my friend as he got his cab to the airport (when he checked out we were standing next to James Marsters, for a last little geek-out moment). I braved the world and got a trolley up to Fashion Valley mall to go check out the Apple store for an iPad camera connector. The trolley ride was fun, the Apple Store not so much, with chaotic and REALLY unhelpful staff. I actually hated it, and decided I’m only ever shopping from Apple online if that’s how ridiculous, rude and ill-informed they are. I literally got shunted around 6-7 staff before overhearing an EIGHTH say they had none of those items. The others just sent me on a run-around, so in disgust I wandered to the Microsoft Store to watch Kinect being demoed. Actually, as a cynic, it looked kind of fun – though obviously their set-up in terms of space and room was optimal. As with anything it’ll depend on the software they bring out for it and how compelling it is. Irrelevant to me as I have no console! And no space in my living room thanks to an enormous coffee table.

It’s over, though, and I had another great time. So here’s the info people asked for last year. The 4-day Comic Con pass cost me $100 (next year was being sold for $105). They only do a certain number with the preview night, and someone said those had sold out already, but I can’t remember if last year they put up more preview night tickets when they opened online sales. Online sales WILL start soon though, so keep an eye out.

Preview night isn’t THAT remarkable, but it’s a nice way to check things out with a slightly smaller crowd and no panels – it’s basically some TV previews, and the exhibit hall. And you CAN buy a 4-day pass without it. Um, my flight to the US cost £560 flying into Chicago and out of San Diego, but it would have been around the same for direct flights to San Diego.

The train trip from Chicago to San Diego was $172 for the train ticket plus $150 for the room on the train ($295 for the room, but split between the two of us) and that included all meals on the train. Hotels in San Diego are pretty pricey, so I’m not going to break down that cost for you, but having used the trolley service ($15 for 4 days travel or $5/day) I’d not be averse to staying outside of the centre – though, I have to say I have enjoyed the luxury of a nearby hotel the past two years. And no, I didn’t get a ticket for next year, I think I want to branch out and try PAX or DragonCon or Gamescon in Germany.. before returning to a Comic Con.

Comic Con Day 3: Star-spotting, and sitting. A lot of sitting.

Day 3 of Comic Con and there were big choices to make.

Everyone and their dog wanted to see Chuck, but doing so meant probably missing Leverage and a few other things. Still, we bailed on Chuck last year for Lost, so honour had to be restored. And it was well worth the long queue (we got there around 5am, the panel started after 10). And it was a lot of fun, with throwing t-shirts into the crowd, Jeffster dancing to Bad Romance, etc etc. It’ll be online I’m sure! We then hoofed it to the Hilton to catch the start of the Leverage panel (their first time at Comic Con), which included Wil Wheaton. I missed the free shirts, but was great to see most of the cast up on stage having fun. They mentioned the Leverage RPG, due out sometime later this year I think, and Wil said it was definitely a good one if you like Leverage and like RP!

After Leverage there were big choices. My friend stayed at the Hilton to see Venture Bros, The Guild and Community panels. I went to walk the Exhibit Hall and ended up seeing Wesley Snipes, LL Cool J and being moved out of the way by security for Kenneth Branagh (so he was around a foot from me, but I’m quite a Brit about these things, and just let him wander off). The Hall was crowded and insane, and though I walked the length of it, I failed miserably to find the Nintendo booth I’d been searching for. Also couldn’t queue at the Warner one cos the Chuck gang were all doing signings there. I also almost wandered into Robert Kirkman’s signing, but then saw the queue for it and quickly turned around.

So I next went up to one of the smaller rooms (it only holds 2k people!) and ended up in two cartoon panels. The first was kind of like Pictionary, but with professional cartoonists – which was fun and very cool. Then there was one about voice acting with a ton of famous voice actors. I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting the non-TV panels were, and if I go again, will try and catch these two panels another time, for sure.

But, after these were the panels I’d really been waiting for and the ones I actually skipped out on Fringe/V for (tbh, I’d have had to sit through Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and two others before Fringe and V and would have been stuck in that one room for fear of losing my seat). It was Warehouse 13 and Eureka, back-to-back. Loved them. They were funny, charming and the casts of both shows obviously love them dearly. And Felicia Day turned up to announce her multi-arc coming up in Eureka (along with Wil Wheaton). Plus I got to touch Eddie McClintock as he did a run past the crowd, whacking all our hands (though I prefer a more geeky guy!). I’m glad I made those choices, I went for fun over the shows I might prefer, but that’s all good and part of the crazy decisions you have to make here.

After the two fun Syfy shows I was ‘treated’ to the pilot of Nikita. It looks horrible. I’m sorry, I’m sure there are people who’ll enjoy it, but I almost fell asleep, and well.. I won’t be following it at all. Why did I stay? It was followed by Human Target, a show I adore and which clinched the missing of Fringe and V. I’m so glad I stayed. They announced there will be two new female roles in the show (including a boss for the boys), bigger gadgets, and lots of fun for the gang. I really recommend the show as action silliness, and just sheer fun.

It was a gruelling day though, finishing at 7pm. So I just headed to hotel to eat and fall asleep, ready for another early start on Sunday.

Comic Con PanelFAIL

Comic Con Day 1

Comic Con Dragon Age 2 Panel

First an admission – I probably like TV more than I like playing games.

Secondly, I didn’t make it to the SW:TOR or Fallout 3 panels.

The second is somewhat due to the first, except I did leave a little time between panels to try and get into the gaming ones – just they were a LOT more popular than I expected. So, instead, I went back to the exhibit hall and had another look at some of the gaming stands, but realistically I wasn’t going to hang around and try and play Red Faction (sorry to any fans), and the queues were pretty long. I did stop by NCSoft but they still didn’t appear to be doing much, and most people with Going Rogue up were just using the costume designer (no surprise there!).

Have no fear though, this update does have a (kind of) gaming aspect to it. I just spent part of my evening at Flynn’s Arcade, playing Mission Control and Pac-Man. And I’m rubbish at those games. But to be back in an arcade after *cough* possibly more than 20 years, well, it was very cool. The whole room was set up as a replica of Flynn’s in the original TRON movie.

Then the back door was opened surreptitiously and people allowed to explore through it to Flynn’s office, where we stood until enough people discovered the location and watched a small presentation, which ended up in a bit of zapping and another door being opened into the fluorescent world of TRON, a bar location with the newest TRON: Legacy trailer playing on all sides, and with the bars giving out Coke Zero, while you could look at displays of costumes and models. Super-fun and a little spooky.

As for the first part of my day, I started at the Hawaii Five-0 panel. No excuses, they promised a cool T-shirt (‘I got lei’d at Comic Con’) and also it was followed by the panel for AMC’s The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman’s awesome comic series. Both panels were a lot of fun and got great receptions, so I don’t regret it, except for missing SW:TOR which was 30 mins after the AMC one finished, but people were being turned away from the queues. And I really didn’t want to sit through a ton of other stuff I wasn’t interested in to see it. Same happened with Fallout 3, though I turned up there over an hour beforehand and the queuing people were being told it was full (at Comic Con, they don’t clear rooms between panels, so people turn up and ‘squat’ for a few panels if there’s something they really want to see. So I did make an effort for you all, but I didn’t want to compromise the stuff I wanted to get done for myself.

We queued to buy exclusive TRON merchandise and I now have a die-cast mini light cycle. It was a pain to get but was genuinely on my list of things I wanted. It’s lucky I don’t mind waiting around a lot, I’m getting well-practised.

I’ll see if I can check the gaming stuff out some more, but if I don’t, it’s honestly because of my uppermost admission. I’m here for the TV mostly!

Gaming News: Free Steam Game, Comic Con MMO News, GTA Rothbury, Women spend more on virtual goods, 38 Studios big reveal, Starcraft did not cost $100m

Happy Sunday!

This week brings lots of announcements from Comic Con, including new trailers.

EA/ Maxis also announced that they are producing a game called Darkspore which seems to have nothing at all to do with Spore, except that they claim that they were inspired by the Spore character creator. Perhaps they realised that people enjoyed playing with the character creator more than they did with the game.

Having said that, “players battle across alien worlds to save the galaxy from the mutated forces of Darkspore in a four-player co-operative and full single-player campaign” sounds just a little bit like Alien Swarm, the free 4 player co-op top down shooter which was released for free (free as in beer) along with its base code on Steam this week. (It had good reviews too, go grab a copy if that sounds like your type of game.)

But riddle me this: Does the  “build your own pet dickmonster and watch it dance” play of Spore character creator really translate into a successful “build your own weapon out of monster body parts” type of shooter? Surely a Pokemon type of “Build your cute monster and then make it fight other monsters!” game would have been more logical.

DC Universe Online launch trailer

Fans of lycra-clad men, woman and aliens with improbable body shapes look no further, the Who do you trust? DCUO trailer is here.

Is it bad if every time I saw Wonder Woman, I wished they’d put her in the new costume? Also Batman looks terrifically butch in this trailer, I prefer him with the voluminous cloak.

DCUO is due to launch in November. Hopefully we’ll soon hear much more about the game itself and how it plays.

Space Battles to feature in SWTOR

Another announcement made at Comic Con confirms that the SWTOR team plan to include space battles in their upcoming MMO. It sounds as though it will involve some kind of self contained gameplay – and there’s more information to come in next month’s PC Gamer (a magazine which has been working hard to earn MMO fans’ money recently).

Dragon Age 2 at Comic Con

Lots more news this week about Dragon Age 2, also. I can’t sum it up any better than Arbitrary, who was there at the DA2 panel:

There’s a couple of big differences which I think will prove quite interesting, but obviously which we can’t really see in a short playtest. First of all, the hero is voiced! No more silence.

Secondly, the narrative structure of the game has changed. The game covers a much longer period than Dragon Age, and is told by a couple of (not necessarily reliable) narrators – the tale of The Champion (that’s you, that is!) and who s/he was. This allows Bioware, and the player to play key points in the life of the character, with each being able to have a massive influence on the rest of the story.

The section of playable game was chosen to show off some of the fighting and a little of the dialogue, but it was pretty short. I thought it definitely looked like the combat flowed more and I liked what I heard of the voices and what I saw of the new art style. In fact, there really wasn’t much I didn’t like about the changes and I’m now really looking forward to playing the game, due out in Spring next year – in perfect time for my birthday!

More from Comic Con

Arbitrary has been filing more reports from Comic Con here and there are a few more to come, also. Lots of news there.

And a link to Super Hero Squad Online (I couldn’t get this to work in Firefox but it’s fine in IE) which sounds like a terrifically fun little kid-friendly MMO where you collect Marvel Superheroes into a team and get them to go fight for you.

GTA Rothbury

Recently in the UK we had a manhunt for an ex-prisoner who went on a shooting rampage. There was a lot of criticism about media coverage, claiming (with good justification) that they turned it into a media circus with journalists reporting next to armed police squads whilst negotiating was going on and in earshot of the subject of the manhunt, and so on.

The final stand took place in a small village called Rothbury. This is only relevant because one of the crappier UK newspapers was taken in this week by a faked screenshot showing the cover of what purported to be Rockstar’s next game – Grand Theft Auto Rothbury.

Whilst any actual gamer would not have given that even a second of thought, clearly the Daily Star has none on staff because they ran with it. They got mocked widely in the gaming press, and then Rockstar got some lawyers involved. The Star had to apologise.

Women spend more than men on virtual goods

A survey published this week shows that women spend more than men on virtual goods. As you’ll see in the link, there’s room for some queries on the survey methodology, in particular running a survey on a micro-transaction site is likely to show that users spend more on casual games than ‘traditional’ ones,  but it wouldn’t surprise me if the general trend turned out to be correct. Hopefully there will be more surveys to follow.

But this does raise the question: in an era where online games are leaning more and more heavily on ‘micro’-transactions, how will they change to lure in more women if women are actually their best customers? Or is there a way for them to get men to spend more? Will it involve guns and/or porn?

Lots of questions. You can bet that many business heads in the industry are thinking about this right now.

38 Studios reveal Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning

Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios have been teasing a reveal of their first game for many moons now, and this week they brought out a trailer and some information.

Previously known only as Project Mercury, their single player RPG has been announced as Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning (or KOAR for short.) There’s a trailer to go with the announcement, and it looks pretty sleek.

38 Studios always claimed to be about MMOs, and this single player RPG is to be a testbed for their rich game universe and background, as well as a good game in its own right. While the long long trail of hype without any supporting substance has put a lot of bloggers off, it’s hard to argue with talent like:

People working on the game
- Lead Designers: Ken Rolston (Redguard, Morrowind, Oblivion), Mark Nelson (Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3)
- Lead Narrative Designer: Erik J. Caponi (Oblivion, Fallout 3)
- Lead Systems Designer: Ian Frazier (Ultima 5: Lazarus, Titan Quest, Dawn of War: Soulstorm)

And that’s even before you include Bob Salvatore and Todd McFarlane. So either way, this has to be great news for fans of single player open world RPGs. It isn’t due to be released until Autumn 2011 though.

No, Starcraft did not cost $100m

Last week, I noted rumours that SC2 had cost $100m to make. It turns out that the commenter who said “no way” was absolutely right. Starcraft 2 did not cost $100m, the Wall Street Journal got its figures mixed up and had to print a retraction.

Day One: San Diego Comic Con 2010

Zombies at Comic Con 2010

Three days with no sleep standing in line for the Tron panel ...

It’s been a crazy day and a half, since I’m rolling the preview night into this write-up. Preview night, for me, basically means having a look around the Exhibit Hall, meeting people I wanted to try and catch and getting the atmosphere soaked up before the real work starts. In other words, I didn’t go to watch the actual preview this year, which was the TV show Nikita. Not that interested.

We all got Warner bags this year with our registration stuff. They’re huge, and they have different designs on and people used to queue at the Warner booth for them, so it’s been nice this year to just have one handed over. My friend got Human Target and I got a Batman one, so I grabbed the Human Target one, while he engaged in a game of bag-trading that saw him work through Clash of the Titans, Batman, Scooby Doo, Chuck, Fringe and finally The Big Bang Theory. But I’m happy with my Human Target one. The Exhibit Hall is huge, it’s just huge. And it runs the gamut from comic artists and book publishers, to games companies, along with the obvious film and TV presence. And people queue. They queue for swag, they queue to buy exclusive items, and they queue for autographs. And I hate queuing! So I go pick up the easy swag on the first night and see what else I might want. I did score lots of goodies from publishers, including a copy of George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones, and a bizarre book-related jigsaw. Also a Twilight iPhone cover.. hrrm, I shouldn’t mention that, right?

In all fairness, this year I wanted to check out games more, but they didn’t seem to all be ready to rock on preview night. So I might have to head back there. City of Heroes: Going Rogue had some terminals up, but no way to bag the in-game ghoul costume (and since I don’t play the game, in-game play didn’t really go it for me, but it looked pretty). DCUO was there (for the person who asked), but I didn’t check it out – they had lovely lanyards and my friend snagged one somehow.. we shall return. Then we went to see Super Hero Squad Online, as I’d promised to go hug the CM (long story, follow twitter ;p). My friend took the controls while we chatted and I have to say, I’m totally sold on it. Yes, it’s kiddie, but it’s gorgeous and the housing is honestly the most FUN MMO housing I’ve seen – complete with Hulk throwing sofas around the room to let off steam. So, that was a bit of a surprise to me, only because I’d never really considered it.

So we wandered, we got swag, we met friends from last year, and then we went to check if there was a line for Tron the next day. There was. And I’m a fool. So we took spots and settled in for a freezing night in a line. At least there was cover this year, as it rained. Also the Hilton sent us blankets, pillows and water. Was still freezing though!!! So let’s ignore the night in line, it’s not that interesting, but I had excellent company which helped.

And it was Thursday, the first full day of the con and I was near the front of the Hall H queue. First up was Megamind, a superhero/villain 3-D animated film starring Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, oh, and Brad Pitt. The first three showed up, with Ferrell in costume. I’m not a huge fan of any of them and they didn’t disappoint, I found it quite a stodgy panel, with nothing quite as funny as they wanted. But, and it’s a big but, the film looks awesome and fun and is definitely on my radar now (not least cos they gave us all watches!).

Next up was Tron: Legacy which was as awesome as expected. They showed 8 mins of footage, they showed the new trailer, the entire main cast were there and made interesting comments (the panel is almost certainly on YouTube by now, so honestly, I’m not going into details). They recorded us yelling De-Rez, and other terms and they’re hoping to insert it in the film, so whee, I might be in Tron: Legacy!! That’s a cool give-away and a half. But when they packed up to go early, it was obvious Disney had more in store for us. Firstly we got a 3-D Johnny Depp Pirates teaser trailer, the next one will be about Fountain of Youth, and he’s so great in character, again, I know the footage is online, so go seek!

Then, Guillermo Del Toro came out to reveal his next project is Haunted Mansion for Disney. And they’re rebooting it, forgetting Eddie Murphy ever existed and making it scary and cool. Hrrm. I’m not a massive Disney kid, Haunted Mansion to me was an ok ride in the theme park… so colour me a little disappointed that he left The Hobbit for this. But – the first 999 in the hall got a signed, numbered Haunted Mansion poster (signed by the artist), so yay for swag?!

We left the Hall post Tron and went to find food before heading back to pick up our Haunted Mansion swag. I had wanted to dash to the 38 Studios reveal, but frankly I hadn’t eaten in over 12h and I was HUNGRY. Got to see the Westboro Church protest and counter-protest and headed back to the Convention Center. I did manage to catch the last 15 mins of the panel, but mostly when they were wrapping up. Luckily they have the game’s website up now, so all the info will be there. There was a reason I headed to that room though, and that was for the other panel that was on my must-see list – a Quantum Leap retrospective. But first I saw through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force panel, which was frankly a little bit awkward. Still, it was over and people enjoyed it!

Then I settled down for an hour with Scott Bakula discussing the impact of Quantum Leap with someone from TV Guide. It started off with the show’s credit sequence which almost made me well up and then Bakula took to the stage. He got a standing ovation, which both surprised and pleased me, and I totally joined in. And it was just a magical hour of him speaking and clips from the show, including the final minutes of it. Shockingly, perhaps, he annouced that a Quantum Leap movie was ‘on’ again and that producers were getting on-board and it should all go ahead this time. He did say that he and Dean Stockwell would be in it, but not as the main characters anymore. I’m not surprised at that, but glad that the project is underway and they all seem to be happy about it and on board to star in it regardless of characters!

And then I went to see Dragon Age II…

((If you’d like to see another take on Day 1, Geeks are Sexy went to some of the same panels as Arb but also went to the Scott Pilgrim one instead of Quantum Leap.))

Our Woman in San Diego

With no expense spared, Arbitrary is in San Diego at the moment to attend Comic Con. She generously offered to write about the con and her experiences when she gets a chance. (I think my editorial suggestion was “just write about whatever.”)

So if there’s anything in particular you’d like to ask about, feel free to suggest it in comments here.